1998 Canadian Birkie Gold for NS Skier

1998 Birkie Gold for Daniel Murray, 55km with 12- Pound Pack

by Cross Country Nova Scotia Staff, December 8, 2020 (updated Dec 12, 2020)


As registrations for the 2021 Canadian Birkie Ski Festival continue, we remember a historic victory for our province, by a twenty-two-year-old Nova Scotia skier.  Daniel Murray recorded the fastest male time in the “1998 Birkie Full”, which is a 55 km cross-country ski race where participants carry a 12-pound backpack.  

Murray competed in the 13th edition of the Canadian Birkie, while attending Augustana University College, in nearby Camrose, Alberta, as a 3rd year Bachelor of Science student.  Daniel’s hometown club is North Highlands Nordic, located in Cape North, Nova Scotia.  He is entering this 13th consecutive season as head coach for the Nova Scotia cross-country ski team.

I will always remember the Birke for it’s community atmosphere, the feed station competitions between various community businesses (a Mexican themed one comes to mind), and gently rolling terrain with twists and turns.  In particular to 1998, most of my memories of my race that year have now gone, but I still remember spending the first 1/4 the race holding onto the overall leaders (who did not have a pack) and who were very strong national caliber racers.  When the eventual race winner finally noticed that I had a backpack on, he fired a few sparring (yet good natured) comments in my direction, then went to the front of the pack and hit the gas.  And, of course, it was nice to have my folks and youngest brother there, to sit together with my university team after the race and share stories of the day.


Daniel’s parents, Linda and Ken Murray, introduced cross-country skiing to their four children at early ages – they all developed a love for the sport and competing.  The Murrays became key contributors within their local club and the whole family enjoyed the lifestyle of travelling to loppets, races, and the sense of community within all of these events. Linda recounts her family’s adventures at the 1998 Birkie, below.

It’s nice to recall the Birkie day again. It was Valentine’s Day. Stephen age 14, Ken and myself, were entered in the 32 km event.  Our start was a half an hour after Daniel’s so we watched that group leave.  To our horror we saw Stephen accidentally head out with this group.  Ken ran along the frozen lake and caught up with him just before the racers entered the woods.  The night before at a team party I asked Daniel’s teammates how I should handle the event.  There would be thousands of participants.  They all said to go like hell for the first 2 km because the numerous tracks on the lake will be narrowed down to two tracks through the woods for the last 30 km.   I did what I could do.  When I finished I saw the media interviewing Daniel. We were so glad to be able to share this special time with him.  I found out later to my surprise that I had placed second in my age category!   Becky Scott’s mom came first.


The 1998 Birkie is noted by the Canadian Birkebeiner Society to have been a “slush fest” as temperatures soared in the afternoon, turning tracks into mush; unseasonable weather for this edition of the race which landed on Valentine’s Day.  The Birkie traditionally attracts talented and up-and-coming racers from across Canada.  Familiar Canadian national team skiers and soon-to-be national team participants competed in races during the 1998 edition.  View Full Article (Edmonton Sun, 15/02/1998), Results List (Edmonton Journal, 26/02/1998).

1998 Birkebeiner results.  View full list, click here, as published in Edmonton Journal (February 26, 1998).

The Canadian Birkie Ski Festival is one of three Birkebeiner events held worldwide – with others held in Wisconsin and Norway.  The Birkebeiner originated in Norway, based on the legend of two warriors who rescued their nation’s prince as a civil war raged in the year 1206, skiing across two mountain ranges with the child, to the town of Lillehammer.  The 12-pound pack some skiers carry in the 55-km event represents the infant prince.  

The 2021 Birkie will be held at Cooking Lake, Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area (approximately 60 km east of Edmonton), providing recreational and competitive cross-country ski events.  Families are encouraged to participate in the ⅓ km Barnebirkie classic ski events, where kids and parents ski together.  Additionally, an inaugural Virtual race is being offered, allowing competitors to race from across the globe, for the 36th edition of the Birkie.  

CTV News Edmonton

The annual event will look different this year because of the pandemic. Registration is capped at 640 skiers over four days, almost half of last year’s numbers, and participants will be spaced out on two sites with staggered starts. “We knew it would be very busy,” Canadian Birkebeiner Society president Dave Cooper said. “We were more than a month late to start and with the caps, people were waiting.” Read full article, CTV News Edmonton (December 11, 2020).


Click to view YouTube videos.

Photo Links

Click on the photos to view the Birkie website.

Further Reading

> Canadian Birkebeiner Registration

> Daniel Murray – 2020 Bryan Scallion Award

> Nova Scotia Cross-Country Ski Team

> Nova Scotia Loppets

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